-Press Release, Granville County Government
The approval of the 2018 Farm Bill in December has thrust industrial hemp into the spotlight as a lucrative agricultural crop, encouraging Jack Tatum of Isolera Extracts to bring an industrial hemp processing service to Granville County. North Carolina’s long tradition of organic farming, along with is support for the industrial hemp industry and its strategic geographic location, was a key factor in Tatum’s decision to bring his company to the state.
Several regions were considered, Tatum, noted, but Granville County and the City of Oxford stood out by offering tremendous support for this vision to spark economic growth through a bustling “new” industry. Upon touring the former Burlington Mills facility at 325 Lewis Street, Tatum knew he had found the ideal location.
A long-time entrepreneur, Tatum said that the impending passage of the 2018 Farm Bill last year encouraged him to make preliminary steps to “get ahead of the curve” as he began work to up-fit the 187,000 square foot industrial facility. Upon securing the site, extensive measures were taken to design “clean” zones for the industrial hemp processing equipment, update existing infrastructure to support the on-scale laboratory, improve air quality, and other measures to prepare for operation.
Construction at the site is now complete and Tatum’s equipment partners from Precision Extraction Solutions, a world-renowned extraction company based out of Michigan, are working to complete the installation of equipment and training of Isolera Extract’s locally-based laboratory team.
Since industrial hemp farming and industrial hemp processing are new to this region, engaging local farmers was a priority in the initial phase of the project to establish strong working relationships. There are about 100 farms in our community that have faced reductions in tobacco allotments, Tatum explained.
Although growing organic industrial hemp is somewhat similar to growing tobacco, Isolera Extracts has hosted free information sessions with third-party experts for local farmers to learn how to ensure that their crops are planted in ideal soil conditions, retain the proper moisture content, receive adequate sunlight, are harvested properly to optimize value and are kept in compliance with North Carolina and federal regulations. Soil sampling and periodic plant testing is also an important part of the process.
“Everyone will be going through a learning process as we get this off the ground,” Tatum explained. “We are suggesting that farmers start with one to five acres as they learn the process and proper techniques, and then grow from there.”
A form of cannabis, industrial hemp contains less than 0.3 percent of THC. (THC, i.e. tetrahydrocannabinol, is a crystalline compound that is one of more than 100 known cannabinoids found in industrial hemp.) The form of industrial hemp that has been legalized through the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill contains high levels of CBD (cannabidiol) oil, which can be extracted and used in health supplements.
Health supplements containing CBD are lauded for their ability to reduce inflammation, among other benefits. Industrial hemp that contains more than 0.3 percent THC is considered non-industrial hemp cannabis under federal law and is not legally protected under the 2018 Farm Bill.
After industrial hemp crops are harvested, farmers in Granville County and neighboring regions will be able to bring their crops to the Isolera Extract team, who will identify each farmer’s batch, test the biomass for its chemical composition, grade the plant material and buy the industrial hemp, if the farmer so desires, at its current market value.
“We have a system of checks and balances in place and a team of scientists on board to ensure compliance and quality,” Tatum indicates. “We want to ensure that farmers in the community are being compensated appropriately for their efforts and output. In the end, our goal is to produce top-notch products and stimulate economic growth for individuals and for a community hard-hit by cutbacks from the tobacco industry.”
A series of interviews to round out the staff of Isolera Extracts is now in progress, with an opening phase of the company’s rollout employing a workforce of approximately 40 people. Tatum says that Isolera Extracts will hire approximately 100 local employees as production grows.
“The quality of the workforce here is exceptional,” Tatum remarked. “There is a lot of local talent and we are looking forward to working with our team to push the boundaries forward in this new and exciting industry.”
Initially, Isolera Extracts plans to process about 3,000 pounds of industrial hemp per eight-hour shift. Within six months, however, the estimate is a production level of about 10,000 pounds of industrial hemp each eight-hour-shift.
North Carolina is quickly becoming more accustomed to the idea of industrial hemp as a “cash crop.” In data shared by the USDA, N.C. has been listed in the “top ten” in a ranking of the nation’s hemp-growing states, falling behind Colorado, Kentucky, Oregon, North Dakota, Minnesota and New York.
“North Carolina has gone all-in on hemp” the USDA noted in its ‘Hemp Industry Daily’ report. “State officials see it as a natural fit for an economy once dominated by tobacco farming and textile manufacturing.”
With the addition of Isolera Extracts to its industrial base, Granville County will play a major role in this trend as a new agricultural phenomenon sweeps the country.
“We could not be more pleased to operate Isolera Extracts in Granville County,” Tatum said. “We’ve received a warm reception from Granville County, the City of Oxford and the state of North Carolina. The entire community is behind us and our partnership with Granville County and its farmers is an exciting opportunity for everyone.”
“We would especially like to thank Economic Development Director Harry Mills,” Tatum added, “who has been essential in this process and has facilitated making this a reality.”
Plans are for Isolera Extracts to be operational by the beginning of April. A ribbon cutting at its 60-acre home will take place with local, regional and state officials on April 5.
For more information on Isolera Extracts and other local industries, contact Granville County Economic Development Director Harry Mills at 919-693-5911 or email him at [email protected]
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